Packing your bags and building your travel checklist before leaving for a trip is a decision-making exercise. What are the priorities? What becomes indispensable, and what is, well, “dispensable”? Also, airlines love to add fees to those who have too much luggage. The smaller the bag, the better. All the same, some items are essential.
Here are the ones that should never be forgotten before leaving home!
This article contains affiliate links. Also, most items in this list are available on my eStore, Foodie.Voyage!
Whether it’s to take a break from the constant noise on the plane, to sleep in a noisy hotel or to give yourself a few hours of rest during a journey by train or bus that lasts a few hours, earplugs are at the top of the list of the discerning traveller.
Just like the earplugs, the sleeping mask is very practical on the plane, but also to fight against jet lag. Sleeping during the day can be difficult without this mask. And if it becomes necessary to sleep late one morning after a drunken evening, this mask will become your friend, along with some acetaminophen tablets and a large bottle of water!
Travel Checklist: Smartphone
A smartphone is one of the most important items for any discerning traveller. It’s so important, in fact, that we had to write a whole article on the subject. Click here to read it.
The list of pills and tablets to take on a trip is specific to each destination, and visiting a travel medical clinic is a must before any trip. Are your vaccines up to date? Are your yellow fever papers complete?
All the same, some tablets that can be bought over the counter should be part of the travel bag of the experienced traveller:
Bismuth tablets. Pepto Bismol is a natural product, helps with almost any digestion problems, as advertised, and can save the life – figuratively – of the traveller who likes to try new dishes. Also, it is only available in four countries: Canada, United States, Mexico and England. Do not forget to buy some before leaving home!
Sleeping pills. Several tablets that can help you sleep are sold over the counter. These can help you sleep on the plane or on the train and are very useful for fighting jet lag.
Antibiotic ointment. The Polysporin brand is the best known. Because any scratch can become an infection that ruins a trip.
Band-Aids. For the same reason as the antibiotic ointment!
A generic antibiotic. These tablets are not available over the counter. Do not forget to ask for a prescription from the doctor at the travel clinic.
An anti-malarial. Again, the doctor at the travel clinic will guide you.
Sunscreen and mosquito repellent. In both cases, it is relatively easy to buy one once at your destination. (Actually, in the case of mosquito repellent, it might be better to buy it abroad, depending on your destination.)
Ibuprofen. Advil and generic pills work against pain, fever and inflammation, making it a very convenient 3-in-1.
Travel Kit: A Camera
Of course, when you travel, you have to take pictures, for memories, but also to make others jealous. There is an incredible amount of best travel camera classes, for example the HTC RE, Canon G1X or Fujifilm X100T are all very different, and all interesting!
Music has a comforting side, and since sometimes travelling means moving in less than ideal conditions – for example in a minivan in the mountains of Oaxaca in Mexico or in a train that bounces up and down in Myanmar – having good headphones that can help you ignore the surrounding noise and focus on music can have therapeutic virtues!
There are many different options, here.
Earbuds will make a good job of blocking out noise and they’re tiny and easy to travel with. My suggestion? The SONY MDR-EX650 B offers great value and are completely indestructible.
Over-ear headphones are much bigger but the sound quality is 10 times better. I really like my Sennheiser HD1 Over-Ear.
And then, one of the most luxurious options are noise-cancelling headphones. They’re bulky, fragile, very expensive, a lot of them use bluetooth and so need to be charged, and I personally don’t like them. That being said, the legendary English speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins makes a stylish hi-fi headphone that cancels noise very well, called the Bowers & Wilkins PX.
Good old duct tape, again, to the rescue. Need an improvised clothesline? Duct tape. The mosquito net is punctured? Duct tape. A plastic bag threatens to give way? Duct tape. A backpack breaks? Duct tape, at least temporarily!
Obviously, it is very important to have all the necessary tools and a bag to carry them. Some people prefer backpacks, others have wheeled suitcases. Some prefer huge suitcases, and others, bags that can pass for a purse on the plane. Anyway, it would be a monumental mistake not to take the time to properly research the purchase of a suitcase.
Here is a list of criteria to consider: with wheels, or not? With straps for the back or not? Firm or malleable? A bag that respects the dimensions of airlines’ carry-on rules or not? With a detachable day bag or not?
Note: if you’re interested in finding the best backpacker tent, BunchOfBackpackers has a great blog post on the subject!
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